Purpose: Since the Declaration of Alma Ata, universal coverage has been at the heart of international health. The purpose of this study was to review the evidence on factors and interventions which are effective in promoting coverage and access to cataract and other health services, focusing on developing countries.
Methods: A thorough literature search for systematic reviews was conducted. Information resources searched were Medline, The Cochrane Library and the Health System Evidence database. Medline was searched from January 1950 to June 2010. The Cochrane Library search consisted of identifying all systematic reviews produced by the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group and the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care. These reviews were assessed for potential inclusion in the review. The Health Systems Evidence database hosted by MacMaster University was searched to identify overviews of systematic reviews.
Results: No reviews met the inclusion criteria for cataract surgery. The literature search on other health sectors identified 23 systematic reviews providing robust evidence on the main factors facilitating universal coverage. The main enabling factors influencing access to services in developing countries were peer education, the deployment of staff to rural areas, task shifting, integration of services, supervision of health staff, eliminating user fees and scaling up of health insurance schemes.
Conclusion: There are significant research gaps in eye care. There is a pressing need for further high quality primary research on health systems-related factors to understand how the delivery of eye care services and health systems' capacities are interrelated.